Throughout its 33 years of existence, the Charlotte Hornets franchise has had some thrilling highs and some very unforgettable lows. Even then, despite being the team responsible for posting the worst winning percentage in a single season in NBA history, many exciting players have laced up their sneakers for a franchise most known for its vibrant colors of teal and purple.
Even during the Hornets franchise' orange era, back when they were still known as the “Bobcats”, the team had a few solid years that they were just unable to sustain thanks to some retrospectively terrible draft choices.
But among those who have called Charlotte home since entering the NBA during the 1988-89 season, who are the 10 greatest? Let's take a look at the 10 greatest Hornets/Bobcats players in history through August 2023, based off their statistical contributions, accolades, and how well those translated to winning basketball.
Honorable Mentions: Emeka Okafor, Jamal Mashburn, PJ Brown, LaMelo Ball
10. Al Jefferson
The Bobcats, by 2013, were still reeling, finding it difficult to break into the playoff picture after missing out on Anthony Davis during the 2012 NBA Draft. They were also not major free agency players back then, so when they signed Al Jefferson to a three-year, $40.5 million deal, it seemed like the winds were changing in Charlotte.
Adding Jefferson vaulted the team to relevancy, giving the Bobcats just its second playoff appearance. During the 2013-14 season, Jefferson averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 boards, picking up down ballot MVP votes en route to finishing eighth (over the likes of Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tim Duncan) in the race.
Al Jefferson didn't reach those heights again after the Bobcats rebranded back into the Hornets during the 2014-15 season, but his reliability on the low post helped solidify the team after it went through a terrible period in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
9. Muggsy Bogues
Some of those who will rank higher than Muggsy Bogues in this list are flashes in the pan for the Hornets, with some players putting in All-Star level contributions but only for a short period of time, like Al Jefferson. Bogues is the opposite, as he put in nine full seasons of work for the Hornets franchise.
He was never the most flashy scorer, and the most interesting part about his game was that he excelled in the NBA despite standing at only 5'3. However, it's not a stretch to say that he is one of the best playmakers the league has ever seen especially given the physical deficit he has had to overcome. Bogues stands atop the Hornets' all-time assists ladder, with 5557 dimes for the franchise, 2249 more than the next-closest competitor (Kemba Walker). He also tried his best to compete on the defensive end, finishing his Hornets tenure with 1,067 swipes.
There will never be another Muggsy Bogues in the NBA — and that has to count for something even though he may never make it to Springfield.
8. Eddie Jones
Much like Al Jefferson, Eddie Jones did not have the lengthiest tenure as a member of the Hornets franchise. In fact, he only spent one full season in Charlotte before the team traded him away. But Jones certainly made his short stint in Charlotte count.
He put up the best season of his career in teal and purple, averaging 20.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and a league-leading 2.7 steals during the 1999-00 season, the same campaign in which he made his third All-Star team. And it wasn't just empty stats as the Hornets won 49 games during that season.
7. Anthony Mason
Anthony Mason, had he played in this day and age, would have excelled, as his defensive tenacity, versatility, and playmaking would have allowed him to play a role similar to the one Draymond Green plays for the Golden State Warriors. During the 1996-97 season, Mason's all-around skillset was in full display, as he averaged 16.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists to help lead the way for the team's best single-season win total in its history (54 wins).
Mason was a perfect complement to Glen Rice and the Hornets' army of long-ball marksmen during his three-season stint with the team, as he helped bring out the best in those players by filling in whatever gaps there ended up being. Just to put in perspective how helpful Mason was for the Hornets, he was there during three of the franchise's most successful seasons in terms of regular season win total.
Simply put, Anthony Mason was a winning player, and he's certainly one of the greatest Hornets in history even though he played in just 236 games for the team.
6. Dell Curry
Besides having great genes, Dell Curry is also one of the greatest Hornets in his own right, even though he didn't exactly have the highest of peaks. Curry never averaged more than 16 points per game, as he topped out during his 10-season stint in Charlotte as an elite-level role player.
But Curry was way ahead of his time. He was bombing from deep before it was cool, helping pave the way for sharpshooters that came after him. He also still ranks second on the Hornets' all-time scoring list as well as second on the all-time three-pointers list, owing to his solid body of work as one of the best floor-spacers of the 1990s.
5. Glen Rice
Yet another player who didn't have the longest stay with the Hornets yet made the most out of it, Glen Rice ascended into a different level in teal and purple. Acquired by the team in 1995, Rice emerged as one of the most explosive perimeter scorers of his time, peaking during the 1996-97 season. In Rice's best season, he averaged 26.8 points on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 47.0 percent shooting from deep — maximizing a weapon that the league hasn't figured out a way to optimize just yet.
That was the same season when the Hornets won a franchise-record 54 games, just falling short against the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. But that shouldn't put a damper on what Rice did for the franchise, as he led the Hornets in the team's bid to remain competitive after former franchise star Alonzo Mourning refused to sign a contract extension, thereby leading to his exit from the Queen City.
4. Alonzo Mourning
The Hornets, by the mid-1990s, were on the come up. They won 50 games during the 1994-95 season, and it seems like the best was still to come for the franchise as they had two talented youngsters, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson, to lead the way for the foreseeable future. Alas, Mourning and Johnson didn't see eye-to-eye, which eventually led to Mourning's move to South Beach.
Even then, Mourning's arrival marked the true turnaround for the Hornets in the 1990s. The team made the playoffs in three straight seasons after drafting the Hall of Famer, even making it to the second round in 1993.
Alonzo Mourning may not be as prominent of a name at the top of the Hornets' statistical leaderboards due to how short his stint with the team was. But he remains the franchise's all-time leader in blocks, and he's still responsible for putting the team on the contending map years after treading water for years.
3. Gerald Wallace
For a long time, the Bobcats were the league's laughingstock. But Gerald Wallace made sure to lift the team to respectability with his offensive versatility and lockdown perimeter defense. During the 2009-10 season, Wallace was incredible, averaging 18.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.1 blocks on efficient shooting splits, leading the Bobcats to their first-winning season since re-entering the league in 2004.
Wallace is third in the franchise's all-time scoring list, second in the all-time steals list, third in rebounds (first in defensive boards), and fourth in blocks, a testament to his body of work as a fringe All-Star talent in his 6.5 season-stint in Charlotte.
2. Larry Johnson
In terms of sheer peak, Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice has Larry Johnson beat. (Johnson's peak isn't too shabby anyway, as he averaged 22.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists during the 1992-93 campaign) But Johnson at least stayed with the Hornets for five seasons, and he helped net the team Anthony Mason in a trade with the Knicks in 1996.
Johnson made the All-Star team twice as a Hornet, and he ended up being the franchise's all-time leading rebounder before Emeka Okafor overtook him in 2009. He also ranks fourth in all-time points and sixth in all-time assists.
1. Kemba Walker
In terms of sheer consistency, level of peak, and longevity with the Hornets franchise, no one has Kemba Walker beat. For starters, Walker remained mostly healthy in his eight-season stay in the Queen City, averaging 19.8 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 605 games for the team.
In so doing, Walker became the franchise's all-time leading scorer and all-time leading marksman from deep, giving the team a bona fide number one option even if the franchise wasn't sure in how to build around the 6'0 guard. He's also second in all-time assists, third in steals, and all-time leader in minutes played, and he made the All-Star team four times in teal and purple. Walker is one of, if not the first player that comes to mind when discussing the greatest player in franchise history.